John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Sneaky Evangelism?

Warning: This post is likely to be fraught with clunky church-speak. I have a friend, and my friend has a dream. His dream is to introduce everyone on planet earth to a particular lifestyle that I would describe as a "Kingdom Lifestyle". Using a sophisticated psychological model, he is trying to help people live lives characterized by the peace that passes all understanding, lives of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And he's been quite successful at this. He's written a best-selling book. He's appeared on nationally televised broadcasts. He speaks to large groups of people all across the country and is beginning to travel abroad, taking this message of peacemaking with him everywhere he goes.

He is also very discrete in his language. He is a Christian -- a strong one at that. He went to a Christian college. He's involved in his local church. He reads his Bible, and he prays before meals. But he doesn't always sound like a Christian when you hear him speak. You won't hear any Bible verses or biblical references. I've never heard him talk to an audience about sin or repentance or the need to be "born again". Consequently, doors have opened for him to take his message into communities that might be hostile to more explicitly Christian speakers (like me).

He believes he is partnering with God in a mission to spread the message of peace and peacemaking. He is merely doing it covertly. I don't think he's ashamed of the gospel or denying Jesus or any of that. I believe he is authentically and intentionally choosing words that won't present obstacles to his hearers.

And yet....

I wonder about attempting to persuade people of the rightness of living a "Kingdom Lifestyle" without also introducing them to the King. Granted, some of this is a result of my modernistic upbringing. I was raised in an environment that was very linear and compartmentalized. There was regeneration first. This was followed by sanctification. First, one must be born again. Then one learns to live the Christian life. We were very concerned about salvation as an event and not very concerned about salvation as a process.

Every sermon turned into an altar call. Our message was explicit and unmistakable: Without Jesus, nothing else mattered. In fact, we overstated things, giving the impression that only your relationship with Jesus matters. Better parenting, financial responsibility, good work ethic -- none of that matters in the long run. Just make sure you're going to heaven because all this other stuff is temporary anyway.

I know all of this, and I've learned over the years to focus my attention more on the process involved in following Jesus here and now. But I still have some -- what? -- qualms with the notion that we can separate Jesus' Kingdom from Jesus' Kingship.

Enough of my ramblings. What do you think about all this? Is it okay to be "discrete" or even "sneaky" with our Christianity in order to introduce people to the teachings of Jesus without them realizing it's actually Jesus' teachings? Is that deceptive and unethical? How explicit should we be?